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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jumping in feet first!

I truly enjoy cooking.  Truly I do.  Baking, I am liking more as I go.  But cooking does not always have to be precise.  A pinch here, a dash of spice, and poof - delicious chicken.  I enjoy taking a recipe and adding my signature to it - adding or taking away ingredients.  If I don't have sherry for a dish, I will grab some white wine. A glass for me, a splash for the dish!
I am always surprised when people don't enjoy cooking.  We all eat.  Some people more than others, but we have to eat something. Right?  Not judging you if you don't enjoy cooking - just surprised.  My mother cooks out of necessity.  Not for pleasure but for survival.  I have a raving fan in my husband.  He gets a taste of a dish and wakes one morning saying - I want Pastitsio!  I grew up in the country - we had fried okra, not Greek food!  I had never ate this fabulous dish prior to last week, didn't even have a clue what ingredients was even IN Pastitsio!  But now I do!  And it is SOOOO Yummy!  So yummy that when I woke this morning, I decided leftover Pastitsio was breakfast!
Time consuming - yes!  Dirty Dishes - 2 pots and a pan, not counting the baking dish!  But when planned, a great and hearty meal!  Served it last night with a Greek salad (of course!), steamed broccoli, and store bought jalapeno and cheddar bread.  Dessert was Heavenly Chocolate Mousse with whipped cream (and I don't mean that stuff from the can either!)
For steamed broccoli, cut the fresh broccoli florets.  Place in microwave safe dish, add a few tablespoons of butter (yes, the real stuff!).  Dash on some garlic salt.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Pop in microwave.  For MY 8 year old microwave, it takes a head of broccoli almost 3 minutes.  You may have a super duper zapping microwave that only takes a minute.  Test it out!
Greek Salad
I'll apologize in advance for lack of measuring.  But as soon as I find that camera charger that grew legs a week ago and walked off the counter, I'll take some pics for your viewing pleasure!
Romaine lettuce (if you must you can use some iceberg, but really why bother!) chopped
Cucumber peeled and quartered
Tomatoes diced
Black olive (and green if you like - I like!) halved
Onion thinly sliced
Garlic Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (in Rachel Ray's world, EVOO)
Red Wine Vinegar
Feta cheese - too much is a bad thing. Approximately 1/4 cup.
Combine veggies in a bowl.  Several dashes of oregano, parsley and garlic salt. Add cheese. If you are making a salad for 2 people, I use about 1/8 cup of EVOO and 4-6 tablespoons of vinegar.  Adjust to your taste. 


  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 2 lbs. ground beef (or ground lamb, or a mixture of both)

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 1 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce

  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs

  • 1 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries. You can substitute 2 lbs. ziti or penne

  • 4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

  • For the bechamel sauce:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 1 quart milk, warmed

  • 8 egg yolks, beaten lightly

  • a pinch of ground nutmeg

  • This recipe will yield about 24 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a lasagna pan that is roughly 12 x 18 x 3 inches deep.
    Begin with the Meat Filling:
    Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.
    Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.
    Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.
    Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.
    Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.
    Brush the bottom and sides of the lasagna pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.
    Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can.
    Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees while you prepare the bechamel sauce.
    Bechamel Sauce:
    Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
    Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.
    Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.
    Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.
    Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden color.

    Wasn't wowed by the Mousse.  It was edible but not a WOW!  But the whipping cream - YUM!
    Homemade Whipping Cream
    If someone had told me years ago how easy this was, Oh MY!
    Empty Heavy Whipping Cream into your mixer.  This can be made by hand (have done it) but an electric mixer makes life SO much easier!  (Thank you honey for buying me appliance for birthdays and Christmas - and I'm being sincere!)  Back to the instructions - start slowly mixing the cream.  You go too fast too soon and white liquid will be decorating your counters and cabinets!  Makes for more cleanup work - NO fun!  Add a dash of vanilla and a few dashes of powdered sugar or white sugar.  Increase speed slowly.  Beat cream till fluffy.  That's it!  Wasn't that so easy!  Now taste it - better than the can stuff that you squirted in your mouth as a kid!


    1. Hello! And welcome to blogland! SO glad you are here. I am going to make your greek salad and toast to you at dinner tomorrow night. I will blog it, too!


    2. YAY! I can follow your recipes on here as well as facebook :)

    3. That still looks SOOO yummy - but like a LOT of work. I'll just need an invite to dinner the next time YOU make it ;)